Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014 Overland & 4x4 Forum Statistics

Four years ago I started collecting overland and 4x4 vehicle-based forum statistics.
Overland Internet Forums & Magazines
I was interesting in tracking the number of registered users, threads and posts on the forums and providing a comparison on the top websites.

The challenge for 2014?  Could the popular forums keep the growth momentum up and were the thread counts increasing?
What about the magazines?  Are they challenging the forums for content or are web users divided between the content creators (forum users) and content consumers (magazine & facebook subscribers)?

Here is an overview of the previous years: 2012 | 2013 | 2014

A few websites stand out in 2014 which include ADV Rider, Expedition Portal, Horizons Unlimited and Prado point.  A detailed list of all the websites (forums & magazines) are at the end of the blog post.

2014 to 2015


Overall, new user registrations slowed during 2014 compared to 2013. Expedition Portal lead the way (18.69% growth) and managed to clock over 100,000 users.  Prado Point had the 2nd highest growth rate (15.81%) followed by Horizons Unlimited (13.63%).

Expedition Portal and Horizons Unlimited (Hubb) offer a diverse website and don't only focus on forum activity.  The emphasis on good quality content, with frequent changes, has boosted the growth rates of Expedition Portal as indicated in these statistics:
Expedition Portal vs Horizons Unlimited - Registered Users
New user registrations have continued to grow even with the impact of social media.

Expedition Portal vs Horizons Unlimited vs ADV Rider

Thread Count

Thread growth is critical in keeping forums active with fresh content (although plenty of duplication occurs on forums). Prado Point edged out Expedition Portal which highlights the fact that the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado has gained traction as a popular 4x4 vehicle.
More importantly, these figures clearly show that the popular websites, which are in strong growth, attract new content.
Regardless of new content, there is enough threads to keep a user very engaged.


All forum users, especially newbies, want to see interaction on threads that they post. The clear winner was ADV Rider at an average of 33 posts per thread followed by Prado Point and Expedition Portal (16 each). HUBB averaged 7 posts per thread.


The most popular Land Rover forum was Landyzone with an average of 13 posts per thread.

Facebook & Social Media

Facebook pages have seen strong growth over the last two years with magazine Facebook pages seeing phenomenal growth throughout 2014. The Australian magazine 4WD Action had a 555% growth during 2014 - I suspect their marketing budget was dented as a result of promoting the page via Facebook advertising. Those figures almost seem too high yet the Mr4x4 (Pat Callinan) magazine in 2014 popped over 1400% growth in a single year!  Advertising funds magazines and pays for marketing campaigns - something that the forums don't do well.

Overland & 4x4 Magazines - Facebook Likes
 I was surprised at the growth that an email newsletter, the oldest form of mass digital distribution, attracted. Welcome to Unsealed4x4, the newest online newsletter and digital magazine. Unsealed4x4 don’t publish distribution figures however they are claiming bragging rights on being on the worlds largest digital email newsletter. Their Facebook page buzzed to a whopping 30,000 likes within a year.
 I look forward to seeing how Unsealed4x4 will evolve and introduce more interaction with its registered users unless its aspiration is to continue to emphasis digital content and product advertising rather than interaction.
Overland Forums - Facebook Likes
Expedition Portal pipped the charts at 147% growth on its Facebook page with the HUBB coming in at 48%. Only these two websites managed to clearly manage the diverse groups of forum users and Facebook interaction. Majority of the popular forums don't have an emphasis on getting users engaged on Facebook.
Horizons Unlimited vs Expedition Portal vs ADV Rider
Twitter interaction is not even worth a mention, however the Land Rover forum twitter accounts dominated but the number of followers are minor in comparison to registered users and Facebook.

Conclusion

The forum based websites attract registered users yet struggle to interact with these users via social media.  On the other hand, the magazines attract Facebook 'likes' yet don't offer an easy way of interacting with the printed or digital subscriber.  Potentially these two communities will always stay semi-divided as one lot of users create content (the registered forum users) and another lot of users consume content (magazine and Facebook subscribers).

The challenge for the overland and 4x4 forums is to diversify and keep the users active.  Expedition Portal put a strong emphasis on fresh homepage content and this has had a positive effect on the overall internet ratings.  The challenge for the magazines is subscriber interaction and boosting advertisers coverage.  Perhaps 2015 will continue the boost of free digital magazines and drag new users to social media platforms.

Surveyed Websites:

Name URL
4wd Action http://www.4wdaction.com.au/forum 
4x4Community http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum
ADV Rider http://www.advrider.com
Australia LR Owners http://www.aulro.com/
Australia Toyota Owners Club http://au.toyotaownersclub.com/forums/
Expedition Portal http://www.expeditionportal.com
ExplorOz http://www.exploroz.com/Forum/
Horizons Unlimited http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/
ih8mud http://forum.ih8mud.com/
Land Rover Owner International http://www.lro.com/forum3/
Land Rover UK Forums http://landrovernet.com/
Land Rover World http://www.landroverworld.org/forums/
Land Rovers Only http://www.landroversonly.com/
Landyzone.co.uk http://www.landyzone.co.uk/lz/
LR4x4 http://forums.lr4x4.com/
LRRForums http://www.lrrforums.com/forum.php
Mr 4x4 (Pat Callinan) http://www.mr4x4.com.au 
Overland Journal http://overlandjournal.com
Overland Sphere http://overlandsphere.com/overland-forum
Pirate4x4 http://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/
Prado Point http://www.pradopoint.com/
The Toyota LC Owners Club http://www.tlocuk.co.uk/forums/
UK GS er.com http://www.ukgser.com/forums/
Unofficial LR Enthusiast Forum http://landroverforums.com/forum/
Unsealed 4x4 http://unsealed4x4.com.au